The fans--the fans above all--savored Washington's first Super Bowl victory tonight. Their darling Redskins--who had kept them on the edge of their seats throughout the first half and made it certain only in the final minutes--had just won a championship. And no one was leaving the Rose Bowl.
"Re-spect, re-spect, re-spect!" shouted the 25,000 Redskins fans who in the waning moments seemed to fill the 105,000-seat stadium, waving their fists in the air as Miami Dolphins fans quickly fled the scene.
The cheers that had carried them through the month-long playoffs and the fight song that had sustained them during the scary moments tonight, were chanted over and over again, as if for reassurance that it all had finally come together.
"We're No. 1, We're No. 1!" some yelled for variety's sake. "Tampa next year," shouted Andy Koerner, an accountant from Herndon.
Hank Dralle, president of a Washington travel agency and the proud wearer of a burgundy tie with the word "Respect" on it, rasped, "I lost my voice. I'm half drunk. We're No. 1."
Even the Redskins' owner, Jack Kent Cooke, informed the world that the thousands who had come here to wave the burgundy and gold were the "finest fans on the face of the earth."
Those still in the stands viewed Cooke and other locker room proceedings on a giant television screen.
When an NBC television announcer declared that the story of Super Bowl XVII was "Riggo-nomics," the fans whooped and hollered again.
Jim Pond, who owns the Mr. Softee ice cream chain in Ocean City, Md., tooted "Hail to the Redskins" on his trumpet one more time, which he jokingly estimated was the 3 millionth time this week. "I feel out of this world," he said.
Bob Nearing, a Silver Spring greenhouse manufacturer, and his brother Reggie, who said they had been staying all week in a Los Angeles hotel that was packed with Dolphins fans, declared derisively. "We're super and we still haven't beaten 'anyone.' "
Jerry Faison, a Library of Congress supervisor who had joined other fans in cheering the after-touchdown antics of the "Fun Bunch," shouted "We are rolling. We are having fun. We are having fun."
Judy and Teddy Bear of Herndon said they were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, even though it is next month, "but we all couldn't be better," Judy said.
Thoughout the first half the mood of the Redskins crowd reflected the actions of their idols on the field: downcast when Miami's Jimmy Cefalo scored untouched on a long pass play early in the game, excited and on their feet when a Joe Theismann lob pass to Alvin Garrett tied the score at 10-10, slumped back in their seats on the ensuing kickoff when Fulton Walter ran the length of the field for the Dolphins' second touchdown.
They remained apprehensive about the outcome until running back John Riggins scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10 minutes left in the game. After that, the Redskins' rooters never left their feet.
"Touchdown! Touchdown!" they cheered, and with two minutes left and as if on cue, quarterback Joe Theismann threw a touchdown pass to receiver Charlie Brown.
Some fans, sensing that afternoon bout with Miami was almost finished, reverted to their favorite cheer of all time: "We want Dallas!"
Three hours after the game, about 2,000 Redskins and Dolphins fans jammed the international ballroom of the Beverly Hilton for a post-Super Bowl party paid for Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and Dolphins owner Joe Robbie. The two had agreed that the winner of the Super Bowl would pick up 75 percent of the party's cost and the loser the rest.
Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard, sporting a button that proclaimed the Redskins as "Bee Killers," kissed and hugged well-wishers.
"I guess next week it will sink in," he said, shaking his head in amazement. "We weren't even supposed to be here and then to win it, too."
Don Sigmund, a Washington insurance executive dressed in an Indian headdress and gold-colored football pants, said of the victory, "It's almost a moment of peace. We won. We are there to be respected."
The mood in the crowded ballroom was relatively subdued and though a band played Duke Ellington tunes, few people were dancing.
Redskins "Hog" Russ Grimm said he was "relaxed," just as he had been during the game. But Karen Hawk--"soon to be Mrs. Grimm"--said the team's left guard dances like a "pig in mud."
Cooke made his way through the crowd of well-wishers, while his companion, the Countess Agneta Bonde, took everybody's picture with her miniature flash camera. "I was worried they'd lose for a while," said the Countess, "but then I'm just learning about football."
At least one Dolphin player decided that the party was a bit more public than he had counted on. A.J. Duhe, a Miami linebacker, said he expected "an intimate team party." Looking around with a frown, he said "but there must be 6,000 people here and I'm leaving." But he stayed.
Redskins fans had started arriving for Super Bowl XVII three hours before gametime and early on expressed confidence that their Sunday heroes would not let them down.
Sometimes, Don McElfish was saying, "You can't take life too seriously."
So today McElfish, a Prince George's County high school civics teacher, stood outside the Super Bowl in full Indian headdress with war paint on his face and chest as he whooped and hollered for the Washington Redskins.
"You have to get crazy," he said. "I'm 31 going on 13."
As Redskins fans go, McElfish was distinguished only by his exuberance. All Washington rooters here seemed to be showing their colors--though most in a more sedate manner--and their undying love for their upstart, get-no-respect Redskins.
Before the game it looked like an RFK Stadium tailgate party without the tailgates. Most fans arrived by bus and picnicked on nearby parkland. The more well-heeled and well-connected feasted at corporation-sponsored buffet lunches held under tents or at the nearby Brookside Golf Course clubhouse.
And the rivalry that has gone on all week between supporters of the two teams continued right to the opening kickoff with 'Skins fans hollering for their "Hogs"--the nickname of the Washington offensive linemen--and denigrating the watery mammals from Miami.
"Love Them Hogs" and " 'Skins Revenge" were two of many slogans that appeared on T-shirts won by arriving fans.
Signs and placards bore similar messages. One said, "Hogs have the Bees on their knees," a reference to Miami's defense; another, "You can't scalp a dolphin, but you can Skin him," and still another proclaimed, "Redskins will do it on porpoise."
Joy Thompson of Falls Church, who said she hasn't missed a Redskins game in 11 years, declared: "This time we're having a fish-fry."
"I want to see the 'Skins use Dolphins as fish bait," said Joyce DeCicco, a Bowie medical receptionist, as her husband, Guy Lucas, an electrician, exclaimed, "We're going to exterminate the killer bees."
Lucas said he was determined to come to the Super Bowl "if it takes our last penny."
"It did take our last penny," his wife reminded him.
Alice Rivlin, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said she flew to the West Coast Saturday night just for the game. "I'm a big fan, a passionate fan," she said. "I plan my whole weekends around Redskin games."